WE ARE ALIVE! AND FREE???

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(This is a great follow-up to my post entitledFeelings……What’s Up With ‘em?”)

As I meet and observe the ecclesia (Church), I’ve come to realize that so many are living in bondage today.  We have become spiritually weak and anemic.  Please here me!  I am not saying this out of condemnation, but from a heavy heart burdened for the body of Christ; for I too lived a life in bondage for almost 20 years.

This is why this message is the cry of my heart to so many brothers and sisters in Christ I meet.  It is a message I believe today’s Church needs to here: we were born for freedom!!!

IN [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off] Galatians 5:1 (Amplified)

Are you living in bondage?  What is YOUR “flavor” of bondage? Is it a behavior? A substance? Another person?  An attitude? Religion? etc…etc…etc!!!!  Why are so many of us living in bondage and therefore living a life of fruitlessness?

In John chapter 11 there is a story that beautifully illustrates the predicament many believers find themselves.  It is the story of the resurrection of Lazarus.  Now, although I know there is much to learn from this chapter, I merely want to paint a picture for you.

Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days (so by this time he had stinkith…lol).  Jesus then “cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ ” It is at this point I want to focus.

“The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him,and let him go.” John 11:44

So, when he came forth he had to be hopping, because it says he was BOUND UP still.  Here are the questions I want us to consider (thanks to Dennis Jernigan for these???):

1)      Was Lazarus as alive as he was ever going to be?  YES!!!

The bible says he did come forth.  Can’t you just see him hopping out?  Just picture a mummy hopping all bound up.  He was definitely alive.  So, if you are alive, you can’t get any more alive can you? J

BUT……..(AND HERE IS THE POINT)

2)      Was he as FREE as he was going to be? NO…..NO…..and a resounding NO!!!

He was alive yet still bound up in the grave clothes.  Therefore, he could NOT enjoy the resurrection life Jesus just gave him.  He was restricted by the clothes of death.

There are several points that need to be made that are very liberating.  They are all centered on IDENTITY!

First of all, the grave clothes are symbolic of your flesh.  Please note….they are separate from Lazarus.  For years in my sincerity for righteousness fueled by legalism, I was confused by what I identified as thoughts, actions, desires, etc. and IDENTIFIED myself with them and by them.  Why?  Well, did Lazarus’ grave clothes have the stench of death? Absolutely!  So, just because he stunk like death didn’t mean he was dead.  NO!  So too, because my thoughts, actions, etc. were very real and stinky, I would condemn myself because of them, and would beat myself up.

Like Lazarus, our flesh stinks, is filthy, (please get this) it CAN NOT be cleaned up (changed) and IT….IS….NOT….YOU!!!!  Your “flesh” is not a “sinful nature” as though you have another one.  You do NOT have two natures if you are in Christ.  You have the NATURE OF JESUS!

The Greek word used for flesh is “sarx”.  It is used 126 times in the NT and is ALWAYS used for the body (“flesh and blood”) or the “carnality” of man.  Now hear me, our “flesh” is merely what is left over from our OLD MAN.  It is the “grave clothes” if you will, of your old nature that is now dead.

“knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” Romans 6:6-7

If you are in Christ “you are a new creation”……period.  This is your new (and only) nature.  Lazarus, who WAS dead, was now a new alive man, but he was not enjoying this new life.   Like Lazarus, many of us are identifying with the flesh because it APPEARS to be real……to be part of us.   But in reality, like the grave wrappings, they are all together separate from you.  They are NOT you!!!  You are not what you do….what you think…or what others say.  You are who Jesus made you to be:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that WE might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21

BELIEVE IT!!!

“for we walk by faith, not by sight—“ 2 Cor. 5:7 [nor by feelings]

The story continues.  Lazarus was brought forth to life in order to WALK…..to MOVE…..to function as he was intended.  So, too were you.  But how do we walk free from bondage.

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:32

If the truth sets you free, what binds you? Lies…..period!!!  Figure out what lies you are believing and substitute them with truth, and my dear friend you WILL walk in freedom.  The grave clothes of bondage will fall free not as you work hard in a 12 step program, or by utilizing psychological strategies, etc.  NO! We live free as we walk in truth.

Finally, Lazarus had a little help did he not?  John 11 says that Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” WOW! What a beautiful picture of the ecclesia (the Church) today!  When we see a brother or sister in bondage, are we supposed to condemn them, talk about them, and shun them?  Absolutely not!!!  If we TRULY understand this message of grace and freedom, we will excitedly and with joy, share the truth of their new identity and of their LIFE in Jesus with them…..all the while encouraging them to simply believe.

As the body of Christ here and now we desperately need each other to help “take off” the each other’s grave clothes.  How?  By walking in truth ourselves and simply and lovingly share that truth.

My dear family Jesus IS “the resurrection and the LIFE,” and if you are truly born again, then you were dead and bound, but now you are alive; alive to walk in freedom.

Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?  Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:29-30

Will you believe today?

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FEELINGS….WHAT’S UP WITH ‘EM?

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As humans we are blessed with two capabilities that cause us to bear a resemblance with our creator.  As humans though, left to ourselves, these can also be a curse when taken outside the context of Jesus and His life and purpose in us.  As a matter of fact, there are shelves and shelves of books in stores dealing with these unique features of us humans.  What are they?

We can feel, and we have the ability to reason (think).  Together they can be an enormous blessing or a tragic curse; depending on whose “hands” they’re in.

Some of us are simply bundles and bundles of feelings, and some of us are like stone walls appearing to not have any feelings at all.  Human feelings are wide ranging.  We feel lonely, fear, grief, rejection, sorrow, abandonment, jealousy, hurt, weighted down, etc.  We can also feel joy, loved, elation, happiness, fulfillment, peaceful, accepted, understood, united in heart, goofy, playful, etc.

The fact is we do have them, but why do we have them, and what do we do with them?  This is the issue at hand!

To cut to the chase, feelings (ANY feelings) are a gift from God to allow us to experience life and subsequently HIM in so many unique ways, and thereby experience life to the fullest!  Jesus even said He came “that you might have life and have it to the fullest.” Fullness of life comes when we experience our Savior in the midst of our feelings; whether they are negative or positive (to our understanding).  They are also sweet reminders of our absolute need for dependency on Him.

Feelings are not right or wrong; bad or good.  They simply…..are!  We feel what we feel because we think what we think.  Case in point: if you are at a horror movie, why do you have feelings of terror?   You KNOW that guy can’t torture YOU.  It is because your feelings don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy. “As a man thinks within himself, so is he.” So, we can’t really trust them.

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.  For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.  (Col.3:1-3 Amplified)

PLEASE……chew on these verses awhile.

Here’s an example from my life.  If I’m feeling lonely or feeling really depressed, I acknowledge conversationally to the Lord (because I’m “alone”……with Him J), “Wow….I’m really feeling depressed/lonely.  Lord, what have I been thinking all day?”  I will quickly discover that I’ve been thinking/dwelling on subjects/circumstances, etc that are….well……..depressing/lonely.  I then substitute those thoughts with TRUTH!!!  This usually begins by thanking and thanking Him for all I have in Him, all He’s done for me, etc.  This is where our ability to reason can be a source of victory or a source of horrible bondage.

You have a choice:  Stand on the truth of who you ARE (identity) in Jesus and who HE IS in you (life) and His complete sufficiency for you OR trust and embrace and meditate on the feelings letting THEM become your identity.  If you choose to walk in truth you are now in a place to see God more clearly and maybe disclose what needs to be revealed to you about you!

It is in the midst of some of my strongest, deepest feelings of loneliness, pain, sorrow, helplessness, regret, self-hatred (I can truly go on) where God drew me to Himself and where He revealed Himself (His heart) the most AND He continues to, as I continue experiencing feelings.  His desire is for us to know and understand Jesus and thus become a display of HIS life!

“For in Him we live and move and have our being;” (Acts 17:28)

So my dear friend…….it’s ALL about Him and NOT about us!!!  What is amazing though is that WE are still the beneficiaries of His grace, His life, His love, His blessings, etc. in the midst of our feelings.

“Knowing Christ IS Eternal Life. And knowing him profoundly, deeply, and in reality, as well as experiencing his unsearchable riches, is the chief pursuit of our lives, as it was for the first Christians. God is not so much about fixing things that have gone wrong in our lives as finding us in our brokenness and giving us Christ.” – from Jesus Manifesto, by Sweet & Viola

A Letter From a Burdened Heart!

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Here is a letter I just sent to a dear member of the Body of Christ.  I believe the Lord was leading me to share it with you, because it came from His burdened heart and it is a message the body of Christ desperately needs to hear!!!  For this post, I have added 4 verses and a just a few more lines for emphasis.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

My dear ______!
I often think of you and I have therefore “not ceased to pray for you that you be filled with the knowledge of HIS WILL, in all spiritual wisdom & understanding.” (Col. 1:9)  I realized that the reason for my burden is because when I look at you…….I see me!  I’ve proved it so many times.  I only share what I do because I love you & because you are so young in the Lord.  I so long to see you grounded in truth & consumed with Jesus & HIS heart!

I was reading today in Hebrews chap. 3 and I wanted to share it with you. Here is vv 6-19 in the Message paraphrased version:

6-11Now, if we can only keep a firm grip on this bold confidence, we’re the house! That’s why the Holy Spirit says,

Today, please listen;
don’t turn a deaf ear as in “the bitter uprising,”
that time of wilderness testing!
Even though they watched me at work for forty years,
your ancestors refused to let me do it my way;
over and over they tried my patience.
And I was provoked, oh, so provoked!
I said, “They’ll never keep their minds on God;

they refuse to walk down my road.”[a life of total dependence on HIM]
Exasperated, I vowed,
“They’ll never get where they’re going, [victorious Christian living]
never be able to sit down and rest
.

12-14 So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.

These words keep ringing in our ears:

Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in the bitter uprising.
15-19 For who were the people who turned a deaf ear? Weren’t they the very ones Moses led out of Egypt [salvation]? And who was God provoked with for forty years? Wasn’t it those who turned a deaf ear and ended up corpses in the wilderness[flesh life]? And when he swore that they’d never get where they were going, wasn’t he talking to the ones who turned a deaf ear? They never got there [victorious Christian living] because they never listened, never believed.

___, the Christian life IS Jesus……period!  Nothing more…nothing less!!!  It’s not about our pleasures, our lusts, our comfort, etc. NO! It is simply about Him….His desire, His pleasure, His way.  And His life dwells IN you and me.  It’s not HOW we live, but rather allowing HIM to live through us!!!  And corporately we all who are IN Christ make up HIS body. WE together are Jesus (literally) to a lost world here and now!!! Wow! This life IN Christ (the Christian life) is all about Jesus…….beginning, middle and end!!!

(These are all NASB unless otherwise noted. Emphasis is added by me.)
Rom. 11:36 says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen”
Col. 1:18-19 says, “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,”

Heb. 12:2 says Jesus is “the Author and finisher of our faith.”

Phil. 3:10, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;”

1 Pet. 1:3-4 (Message) “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to KNOW, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. [Jesus] The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.”

And finally……let this verse sink in:
“for in Him we live and move and exist,…” Acts 17:28

As a fellow frail & weak human, I empathize with you, but I pray that you receive a real heart revelation of the LIVING Jesus (not an historical person on a page)…..just as I am praying the same for myself!  ALL of what’s good about life is found IN HIM!  This is why we MUST be occupied & consumed with JESUS!

To Him Be the GLORY!
Anthony

This IS the Christian Life!

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I have recently had the joy and privilege of listening to sermons from precious saints of “old” and wow has it been rich.  I have been soooo blessed listening to Major Ian Thomas, Watchman Nee and A.W. Tozer, and I’ve been reminded of wonderful truths that have transformed my life.

The consistent message you will hear from each of these saints is this: Jesus IS the Christian life.  What really encouraged me is how they will often say something and emphasize that “this IS the normal Christian life.”  So, for the last week my heart has been so richly blessed and encouraged as I was reminded of this liberating message of grace.

This is truly my life’s message; to let the world know I serve a risen (and therefore) LIVING Savior!  We don’t worship a dead religious leader on the cross. NO!!! He has risen indeed in order to give us HIS life!

We often talk about being saved to go to heaven, etc.  But as Major Ian Thomas has often said, “This is NOT salvation!  Salvation is perfect Divinity being clothed in a redeemed sinner’s humanity.”  Chew on that for a while.  We are not saved in order to get out of hell and in to heaven…no!  We are saved so that Jesus might “get out of” heaven and IN TO US!

As Jesus lived on this earth so do we live here on earth.  In Philippians chapter 2 we are reminded that Jesus chose to set aside His privileges as God to take on the form of a man…He became a man.  Our Divine Father clothed Himself in Jesus’ perfect humanity.  Think about that.  “God was IN CHRIST reconciling the world…”  The gospels often refer to God’s work IN and THROUGH Jesus.

So, do you see it?  This is EXACTLY what Jesus desires to do with us..wow!  Our Father wants to be clothed with our imperfect humanity.  If you read the gospels, you will be reminded that Jesus never did or said anything except what His Father told him to say or do.  He also said that “if you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father.”  My dear friend if you’ve been born again, this is EXACTLY how we are to live; in absolute dependence on Jesus “who is our life”.  When we do, the world will see Jesus when they see us!

This is truly the cry of my heart; to just let God be God (I heard He’s up for the job J) in my life and let JESUS live the Christian life through me, because He is the only one who did live it and can live it through me!  Believe me, I’ve “tried” and all I do is make a mess of things when I live by my efforts.  The bible reminds us that apart from Him “I can do NOTHING!”

My dear friend, is that your desire?  Is that the cry of your heart?  If so, then let us stop trying….trying…trying, and let us die to ourselves and OUR effort and simply start trusting Him to do what only HE CAN do; to live out HIS life!

What an exciting life this Christian life is….this truly is THE NORMAL CHRISTIAN LIFE!!! Blessings!

Check out my entry tomorrow for a wonderful illustration of “righteous” living…real cool stuff!

 

 

 

More Thoughts on Being a Bondservant

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As I said yesterday, if we are IN Christ, then we are in relationship with Him.  There are two parts to this relationship – kurios – Lord & doulos – Slave! 

In other words, if you call yourself lord you must obviously have a slave.  It would be silly to refer to yourself as “master” and yet have no one serving you.  Also, if you call yourself a slave you must therefore have a master. Romans 10:9 tells us “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;” So, when you are confessing Jesus as Lord you are confessing yourself as his slave.

According to Greek scholars, the word doulos is always used for (1) literal slavery (2) slavery to an inanimate object, i.e. to greed, to sin, etc.  So, why is it that in our English translations, the word “doulos” is translated as servant, bond-servant or bond-slave?

I want to challenge you to do something interesting.  Find some passages in a concordance where the word doulos is used and put in the proper word – “slave” and see what it does to the verse.

For example, at the end of Colossians 3:24 it says, It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” {douleuō}.”  So, this should actually say instead, “It is the Master Christ whom you are enslaved to.”

John MacArthur preached a wonderful sermon on being a bondservant.  In this sermon he said the following which puts this into REAL perspective:

A slave is someone whose life belongs totally to someone else, absolute ownership, absolute control, absolute subjection, absolute obedience, absolute loyalty, absolute dependence.  Slavery then was a social relationship between two persons where one had nothing, willed nothing and received nothing but what the master authorized, desired and provided.”

      My dear brothers and sisters Jesus our Master wants our whole heart in absolute surrender to Him.  May He have today our absolute obedience, dependence, loyalty and love! 

Resting In Him J

STOP TRYING!!!

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Oh to live in “victory”!  The longer I walk with Jesus the more I realize how rare this is in the Body of Christ.  Yet, it IS the very life our Father intends for us.  Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.”

    When I consider how many of true believers are not experiencing Jesus alive living in us who IS our only “hope of glory”, my heart breaks.  My heart saddens because I lived like this for sooooo long!     What is sad is that the TRUE gospel is so simple yet so profound. It is simply this: (1) the FINALITY of the cross – He reconciled us while we were His enemies and (2) the REALITY of the resurrection – He rose to give us HIS life!

    Hudson Taylor (5/21/1832 – 6/3/1905), who was a missionary and founder of China Inland Mission discovered this realty WHILE in China as a missionary.  He wrote the following in a letter:

 

“…to find your heart all taken up by Him; to be reminded of His love by His seeking communion with YOU at all times, not by your painful attempts to abide in Him.  He IS our life, our strength, our salvation; He IS our wisdom and righteousness, our sanctification and redemption; He IS our power for service and fruit-bearing, and His bosom IS our resting- place now and forever…”

 

    So, how do we then live and experience this victory?  The apostle Paul said this in Colossians 2:6, “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, {so} walk in Him,” and again he says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).

    We walk (live) just like we got saved…by grace through faith… period!!!

    Again here is what Hudson Taylor had to say about this:

 

“How then, is this faith increased?  Only by thinking of all that Jesus is and all that He is for us: His life, His death, His work, Himself, as revealed to us in His Word, to be the subject of our constant thoughts.  Not a striving to have faith, or to increase our faith, but a looking off to the Faithful One seems all we need – a resting in the Loved One entirely for time and eternity.  It does not appear to me anything new – only formerly misapprehended.”

 

May we REST in Him today!

THE HEARTBEAT OF THE GOSPEL!

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Last Sunday I preached the second part of a message I started last week on Galatians 1:1-5.  Paul in wanting to deal with the legalistic Judaizers took a two verses before getting to his usual greeting which is:

 

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

GRACE…and…PEACE! The true heart beat of the gospel! I put it this way, “Grace is the gateway to real life and victory; peace is our guide and experience of the normal Christian.  Martin Luther gives us another way of looking at it.  He said, “Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the soul.”  How true!!!

 

We have received this new and wonderful life…the life of JESUS by grace, and we continue to experience His life and walk in victory by grace.  As grace becomes a living reality, peace begins to be more and more a normal experience for us. Why? Because God’s grace is certain!  We know who we are and “where” we stand because of grace. 

 

D.L. Moody put it this way, “There cannot be any peace where there is uncertainty.” Although this is especially true for the person who does not know God, it is also true for believers who walk by faith in the (gracious) finished work of the cross and the tomb!

 

So, my dear friend Grace & Peace to YOU from God OUR Father and the Lord Jesus Christ! 

 

Rest in Him!

 

Check out these blogs from pastors at my home church:

Pastor Bob Lehman

Youth Minister Jon

Family & Men’s Pastor Larry Smith

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